[The following was taken from Towards a New Dawn, an left-wing Indian publication in support of the CPI(Maoist), on December 24, 2012 and has been edited for readability. This article is important because it highlights a few of the major failures of the contemporary petty bourgeois struggle against sexual violence. First by analyzing the misogynist inconsistencies of the spontaneous protests that erupted over the rape of a woman in Delhi, and more importantly by cutting to the heart of the problem wherein the petty bourgeoisie had demanded the strengthening of the state forces which, in many other parts of the country, were themselves responsible for such acts. Further, that the strengthening of the bourgeois Indian state represented a strengthening of the societal foundations of patriarchy, and therefore rape and sexual violence. This is often missed by the liberal-left sloganeering which goes on, demanding that the state play an increasingly active role in the expansion of the legal system to protect women, rather than providing for a positive alternative to the bourgeois state. As always, this article is being made available here for the purposes of education and discussion.]
When a woman has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her, if she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying—‘I take away the splendor from you with my virility and splendor.’ (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 6.4.6)
Recently the whole country is outraged by the brutal rape incident that took place in Delhi, the middle class is coming out to the streets—even facing water cannons—and there is always the candle light protest.
We are also outraged and condemn this in strongest terms. At this crucial hour we cannot but make some observations which exposes the several flaws and the hypocrisy of the middle class. The media is abuzz with the news of protesters thronging the streets holding placards demanding capital punishment for the rapists. They are actually angry because a girl was beaten and raped in a bus and her male friend was thrashed.
But wait… If the middle class was truly outraged by rape then the whole of India would have been shut down, because in India a woman is raped every 22 minutes. But this did not happen. So are some of the rapes justified? Which ones are those? Why are middle class Indians protesting against this case while they are silent about the rest? How do they want to prevent these kinds of incidents? We will not search for a definite answer in this article but point out several features of the reaction of the media and the seemingly great Indian middle class.
Rape is rape whether it happens in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, North East or Delhi. But this is not the case in India. In this recent incident a middle class woman was raped by a driver, a fruit seller and their accomplices. Here the victim is the middle class, hence you can expect the middle class to react and the corporate media to add fuel to their anger by showing how insecure our women are. What you cannot expect is the middle class coming out in large numbers protesting against the custodial torture and rape of Soni Suri, where stones were inserted in her vagina and rectum by the police in distant Bastar (the SP also got a gallantry award for his efficient dealing against the Maoists). The media of course does not want to show all this, as they are owned by the corporations, and more so because Soni Suri was protesting against the government policies of selling the land to corporates and violating the rights of the tribals.
These are the kind of rapes that can be digested by the Indian middle class, even if they are posted about on facebook and petitions are signed by very few. This is not exclusive to Chattisgarh, this the same story that one will hear if one travels to North East and Kashmir. The middle class is brave enough to face water cannons if the state is not the violator, but their courage seems to wane when the violence is committed by the state and not supported by corporate media. As a result these rapes are quickly forgotten and brushed under the rug.
Two days back there was a discussion on a TV channel where they were discussing about this particular incident. Not only in this incident but whenever people talk of rape they conveniently forget that rape also occurs in our bedrooms. Never are topics of marital rape, sexual violence against women that takes place within the family is discussed. Our very social structure encourages rape to maintain caste and gotras (and also to prevent themselves from getting raped) young girls are married off against their wishes to virtual strangers. These are rarely contested. Very few people demand capital punishments for those who make such rules. And it is not at all surprising to see a section of middle class encouraging these mindless social diktats. To see women only as an object for entertainment is inherent in our culture and that’s why there is an attitude of protecting women.
Rape is a result of the patriarchal values so entrenched in our society. It is used as means of subjugation and is a form male chauvinism that is incredibly prevalent in our society. Even when expressing concern for the victim the leader of the protests states that now there is no difference to her whether she lives or dies. This reflects the classic mentality towards women that assumes that a woman’s dignity exists solely between her legs and keeps on reminding the victim that she has lost everything. Political parties are also joining the protest attempting to garner support for its own electoral purposes. But one should remember that there are 260 candidates facing charges, such as rape, assault and outraging the modesty of a woman, which contested Assembly elections on tickets of various parties in the last five years. Influential politicians are also known to be supporting khap panchyats in order to win elections. Not only feudal patriarchal values but the so-called modern culture, which is becoming increasingly popular amongst the young middle class Indians, is nothing but a rape culture.
The same city where such a heinous incident took place dances to the tune of none other than Honey Singh whose abusive anti-woman songs glorify rape and violence.
The lyrics of one such song goes:
Aja teri choot maroon
Tere sir se chudney ka bhoot utaroon
Choodney key baad tujhe jutey maroon
Tere mooh main apna lora dey key moot maroon
(Come, lets fuck you so hard
that you will forget about fucking
and then I’ll beat you up with my shoe
and will piss into your mouth)
These lyrics are actually popular amongst the young middle class and he is one of the most sought after hip hop stars in India at the moment. Even Bollywood producers are offering to make movies on him. Can anyone find any difference between the message from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad we quoted previously and Honey Singh’s “Choot”? And this the same culture on that our society and our mindset have been built on!
Surprisingly we see nobody condemning this rape culture, but instead see politicians and police officials advising women to return home early and wear appropriate clothing in public places. On the other hand we see Hindu fundamentalists beating women for drinking in bars and threatening them for wearing provocative clothes. When the debate on TV rages on these are the topics that are hardly discussed. In fact, I do not recollect any discussion in media that actually targets the male chauvinistic nature that is in built in our social structure. This would actually require a radical change in the whole thought process and is too laborious a job for the “enlightened” class. It is more tasking than facing water cannons and holding candles.
Last but not the least, let us see the tendency of the governments around the world when they try to handle heinous crimes like rape or shooting of children in a school. As Indians are busy watching the protests of rape at home just on the other side of the globe a man enters a school and start shooting at children and teachers.
On both sides of the globe people are asking for the harshest punishment for the guilty. They want them dead. Fair enough. Actually the state also wants the public to demand the blood of the guilty.
It will help them create a police state. National Rifle Association (USA) has, as well, condemned the incident and recommended that all schools should have armed security guards. It is well known that NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States and uses political pressure to loosen restrictions for gun sales in order to make business. Hence, to an average American kid the gun culture becomes accepted right from the day they set foot in school. In the wake of recession and social unrests, the government making its intentions clear. Though there is a characteristic difference in case of India, but the story is not much different. The solution that are discussed in TV shows where the elite class participate and the media persons, who think themselves as gods, pass judgements that call for nothing less than preparing the grounds for a police state. Harsher laws, stricter punishments, efficient police action are the order of the day.
The conviction rates for rape in India are an abysmal 26%. Well, to be perfectly honest in India Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) have protected the rapists in North East and Kashmir. The cry for security and swift police action is what is discussed in most shows and whatever be the issue (it might not have to be rape) this is most obvious judegement that is passed. Nobody realizes that this hardly is a solution to the crime. Calling for capital punishment rules out the fact that we live in culture where rape is something outside the system but the truth is just the opposite. Strict laws reflect the inability of the society to deal with its problems. Treating the problem symptomatically does not lead to a permanent cure, one has to dig deep and look at the root cause. As long as the issues of gender inequality are not addressed in relation to such incidents crime rates against women will not be eliminated by just imposing strict laws.
All we need is the sustenance of these movements to build consciousness against patriarchal values and institutions, a bottom-up scheme of consciousness instead of a top-down imposed by the structures of society. It is of utmost importance to realize that rape is the explicit form of patriarchal violence and it is not evil but degrading, and the real fight against patriarchy starts by finding out ways to discover the implicit and subtle forms of patriarchal violence and degradation.
The anger behind the movement is just but let’s not curb it only into a higher middle class periphery, let’s question the very structure about the rapes of the women of Kusnanpushpora in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Orissa , in Chattisgarh , in the Jangalmahal of West Bengal where women are gang raped and beaten to death by the same security personnel who enjoy a complete impunity. So, here comes the paradox: most of the people who are coming together in this present movement against the Delhi rape incident, are demanding a superior state formation, a higher law enforcement! Who will enforce this? Who are we relying on?
On the same structure that Arundhati Roy has said is using rape as a weapon to restrain the democratic voice of the people who are craftily kept outside of the focus of our “beloved” media!
Let’s ask ourselves what picture of India we are drawing in our minds? Is this the India where only some privileged people like us are allowed stay and roam, where people outside of this spectra are expendable? Then is my argument to stop rape and violence against women not flawed as we are only keeping the people from our own class in mind? Are we not excluding the majority of the women in our country who are living in the agony under this monstrous patriarchy, only because there is no media to tell their tales or only because they come from a poor economic condition? Why were there none to speak out against the rape of the women in Jangalmahal both in “leftist” and “rightist” regimes by the joint security force personnel, even when some of the survivors got pregnant?
However, we are not cynics and we believe that speaking out against any form of patriarchy is the call of the day, and those who are taking on the water cannon and tear gas for this reason are our comrades. So we hope with great expectation that the protesters will rise up, breaking the sphere of higher middle class elitism, and will be vocal against the ongoing systematic patriarchy that is embedded with the present socio-economic structure. Because it is not only about the freedom of women but also about the emancipation of mankind from the repressive social structure. And it is quite evident that the present structure has failed to give any answer to this problem, and on the contrary is upholding this rape culture. The BJP’s youth-wing has joined the movement, but this same group has beaten up girls for wearing jeans or being in relationship with a boy of other caste or religion. One of the most revealing comments—although a commonly used cliche—came from Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee President, Botsa Satyanarayan, that these kind of incidents happen because girls roam late night on the streets. (!!!) How are we expecting this present structure to work against the patriarchy when it is working to legitimize patriarchy! We need to reject this whole structure.
We must also reject the “be a man, join me in protecting women” notion. What about the brother who cuts his sister’s head off when she dares to marry into a different community? Is he not playing the role of a male protector too? This machismo is not a solution to the problem of violence against women—it is the root of the problem itself. This is also what we need to reflect.
We have always found it to be our duty to actively support and participate movements where any form of patriarchy is struggled against, and we vow to be a part of this present movement as well in order to shape it into a widespread mass movement where it will go beyond the higher middle class consent by incorporating all section of people; where will be no hypocrisy in the stand against anti-woman violence from state sponsored torture to marital rape, from moral policing to the commodification of women; where it will oppose the double standard of the ongoing protests, based on the Delhi incident and completely forgetting about the dalit girl raped in Hariyana on 22nd of this month, on the same day the protest broke loose; where it will not only protest a certain form of repression but will fight against all forms of patriarchy.
It is very necessary to work on the basis of unity-struggle-unity in this regard to come up with an alternative of the present system as it is not only about freedom of women but the emancipation of mankind from the repressive structure.
For these objectives to be served, we have come up with certain issues that should be emphasized with utmost importance:
1) Death penalty is not a solution of this problem as death penalty implies that rapists are alien to our system; they are most unfortunately not. It is similar in case of chemical castration as it implies rape is motivated by sexual desire—it is not, it is patriarchy’s way of punishing women’s very being, women’s demand for equality and freedom; the solution has to be found into the very structure of the society,its culture and economy and by developing an alternative of it. It has to be based on the agenda not to punish or eliminate the rapists but to eliminate the daily insidious patriarchy that produces rapists;
2) We have to come together to voice against heinous state sponsored violence on the women; we have to protest against the rapes and atrocities committed by Indian army and paramilitary forces in Dandakaranya, Kashmir, West Bengal, North Eastern states and equally condemn the rapes committed by the hired beasts of the communal forces during riots in Gujarat and many places in India;
3) Feudal structures such as Khap Panchayat has to be boycotted and moral policing has to be condemned;
4) Demand for superior law enforcement will be counterproductive as it will only strengthen the present patriarchy because we have experienced laws like AFSPA (Armed forces special power act) that has provided the state structure with an weapon of rape and unprecedented impunity in Kashmir and north-eastern states. On the contrary, we have to demand to repeal laws like AFSPA that have turned out to be pernicious for the very existence of women;
5) It has to fight against the Brahminical casteist ideology existing as the basis of patriarchy in India that is working as a tool to legitimize the subordination of women.
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